It might be an understatement to say that BP hasn’t had the best go of it the last four years. You know – that huge oil spill, the deaths of dozens of workers and, of course, being named the 2011 Worst Company in America by Consumerist readers. Well, things aren’t looking much better, as the company was found negligent in that 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout.
A federal judge ruled this week that Vitaminwater will not, as its labels promise, keep you “healthy as a horse.” Nor will it bring about a “healthy state of physical or mental being”. Instead, Vitaminwater is really just a sugary snack food; non-carbonated fruit coke disguised as a sports drink. Because it’s composed mostly of sugar and not vitamin-laden water, judge John Gleeson held that Vitaminwater’s absurd marketing claims were likely to mislead consumers.
A federal judge yesterday bench slapped the Recording Industry of America, calling a jury’s $675,000 verdict against file sharer Joel Tenenbaum both eye-popping and unconstitutional. The judge struck a strikingly populist tone in reducing the verdict to $67,500, arguing that the same legal reasoning that protects large corporations from excessive punitive damages also protects “ordinary people” like Tenenbaum.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that debt collectors can’t use a “bona fide error” defense to avoid being sued for misinterpreting the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). In other words, if a debt collection agency makes a demand that’s in violation of the Act, it can’t say it didn’t know any better. Well, it can, but you can go right ahead and sue.
It’s all well and good to let your father help out around the family funeral home, but if he doesn’t have an embalming license—and is maybe too handy with an electric saw—keep him away from the important duties. A South Carolina funeral home just had its license revoked because four years ago the owner’s father sawed the legs off a 6′ 7″ body to make it fit in the casket. The owner didn’t tell the family at the time, and they only found out about it recently when an ex-employee told them. (See below for links to cool funk music—yes, it’s related to this post!)
Reversing an earlier decision, Britain’s Lord Justice Robin Jacob has ruled that Pringles are, indeed, potato chips. The decision means Pringles parent Procter & Gamble will be stuck paying $160 million in back taxes. P&G had insisted that the chips lack enough “potatoness” to qualify as a potato-based product (and be taxed as such), but the Judge disagreed, leaving it to philosophers and nutritionists to determine what exactly qualifies as the “essence of potato.” We kind of feel for P&G on this one. We love that crunch, and the way they stack so neatly in the can, but if we want real potatoes, a Pringle isn’t likely to be our first choice.
Cigarette companies have conspired for decades to defraud and mislead the public about the health risks of “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes, a federal appeals court said yesterday. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that a federal district judge was right to ban the terms from appearing on cigarette packages. Under the ruling, cigarette companies may soon be required to issue a public mea culpa admitting that they were killing people when they said cigarettes were safe and non-addictive.
Great news, 17-year-olds! A federal judge has ruled that you can now avoid accidental babies by partaking in the emergency contraceptive wonder that is Plan B. Back in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration limited the contraceptive to women 18 and over, and ordered pharmacists to hide the drug behind their counters away from other common contraceptives. Judge Edward Korman ruled this week that the agency’s decision was based on politics not science, and that it constituted an unacceptable public health buzzkill.
Cincinnati Bell hates phone books and recently asked Ohio to let them kill their White Pages. Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission, also haters of the ever-wasteful and often useless White Pages, agreed. Now Cincinnati residents won’t get a phone book unless they specially request one. We’re no fans of the White Pages, but the deal isn’t as consumer-friendly as it looks.
Tsk tsk, Wells Fargo. You should’ve known that stealing Citibank’s unspoiled bride at the alter was going to draw a bitter legal challenge. Late last night, Citibank’s team of repo-lawyers claimed a partial victory, announcing that a New York judge has agreed to block Wachovia’s sale. Citibank is also demanding $60 billion from Wells Fargo for interfering with the deal.
Remember the French lawsuit that Louis Vuitton won against eBay earlier this month? A French court said eBay was responsible for policing their auctions for counterfeit items—at least that was the official language. It also, unfortunately, helped solidify LVMH’s tight control over who sells its luxury merchandise. This week a judge in New York ruled the opposite direction against Tiffany & Co., telling them, “Tiffany must ultimately bear the burden of protecting its trademark.” It’s a win for eBay. Is it for the consumer?
Westerners are stuck paying $3 billion to energy companies that colluded to gang-rape the free market. California, Washington, and Nevada were planning to return the money to customers, but the Supreme Court recently ruled that the industry manipulated the market, fair and square.
Although it won’t affect other cases, the RIAA was handed a small smackdown this week when a U.S. district judge rejected their request for a summary judgement, and ruled that putting song files in a shared directory was not enough proof that infringement had occurred.
Gather round, tax kooks, and listen to the tale of Wesley Snipes. He’s the guy who didn’t pay his taxes while raking in millions, and then tried to collect $7.4 million in tax refunds. Now he’s going to jail for three years thanks to a federal District Judge who doesn’t care much for tax protesters and their zany theories.
A class action lawsuit can proceed in Washington after the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled T-Mobile’s mandatory binding arbitration clause “unconscionable and unenforceable under Washington state law.”